WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the Subcommittee's hearing titled, "Exceptional Family Member Program: Are the Military Services Really Taking Care of Family Members?"
"Thank you, Chairwoman Speier.
"I wish to welcome both of our panels to today’s hearing on the Department of Defense Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP).
"Let me start by saying that our military families are a vital component, maybe the most important component, to the overall readiness of the Armed Forces. Our military families endure deployments, training cycles, frequent moves and many new beginnings. Our military families are challenged in so many ways, yet time and time again they find a way to succeed and try to make the best of any situation. My hat is off to all of you. Thank You.
"Now let’s think about the other side of the equation. If our servicemembers are deployed or away for training, they will not be fully effective if they must worry about what is going on back home. When a servicemember knows their family is taken care of, they are more ready to focus on the mission at hand. EFMP is about readiness.
"When we think about EFMP, it’s important to understand the scope of those impacted. At last count, there were over 103,000 sponsors and over 139,000 family members across DoD in EFMP. This means roughly 8% of the military and 9% of family members are enrolled in EFMP.
"The Exceptional Family Member Program is charged with taking care of those military family members with special needs. The program was established to ease the burden of finding specialized health care providers, school systems with dedicated support services and community support assistance. It is also supposed to assist servicemembers in the assignment coordination process. We know what the program should be doing, but is it carrying out its mandate.
"This past October Chairwoman Speier and I hosted a roundtable discussion with enlisted spouses on financial literacy and military family support programs. The discussion quickly became consumed with challenges surrounding the Exceptional Family Member Program. I think some of you on Panel 2 were here for that discussion. We heard repeatedly about issues with the assignment process, access to medical services and a perception by a few that enrollment in EFMP would be a career killer.
"We wanted to understand this at an installation level, so in November, Chairwoman Speier and I traveled to Joint Base Lewis McChord and had several meetings with spouses and servicemembers. In every one of those meetings we again heard about challenges with EFMP. One of the comments that stuck with me came from a spouse that said, 'why would they move our family from a duty station where we had the established healthcare, education and family services that we needed to a duty station where we were challenged to find any of these things?' It’s a good question.
"As I prepared for this hearing and read some of the witness statements, I scratched my head more. Some of these issues have been around for a long time and things don’t seem to be changing. I am looking forward to hearing the perspectives on EFMP from Panel 1. Then I want to understand from Panel 2, how DoD and the Services are addressing these EFMP issues and the road map forward.
"Once again, I want to thank our witnesses for their dedication to our military families and for being here today. Thank you and I yield back."